“You Don’t Have To Choose Between God and Science”
That “you don’t have to choose between God and science,” may not come as a news flash to many of you, but I’m still grateful that a Missouri Assembly of God mega-church pastor, Jeremy Johnson, is saying it to his flock.
Johnson joined more than 200 other pastors in urging evangelicals in Southwestern Missouri, one of the nation’s hottest hot spots, to get the COVID vaccination. In a joint letter this week they said,
“Vaccine hesitancy in our pews puts our congregations and communities at greater risk. Given their safety and availability, receiving a vaccine is an easy way of living out Jesus’s command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Johnson, pastor of a church with three sites, and soon to add a fourth, explained vaccine hesitancy as due to fear.
“‘I think there is a big influence of fear,’ Johnson said. ‘A fear of trusting something apart from scripture. A fear of trusting something apart from a political party they’re more comfortable following. A fear of trusting in science. We hear that: “I trust in God, not science.” But the truth is science and God are not something you have to choose between.”
I confess I find what is termed “vaccine hesitancy” hard to comprehend. But in that respect, I probably reflect my social group/ community influence as much as evangelicals in southwest Missouri reflect their own. So it’s good news that religious leaders across the board there are speaking up and urging parishioners to get vaccinated. My only question, “Why in the world has it taken so long?”
The same question might be asked of the “personalities” on FOX News. Only this week have some of them urged viewers to get vaccinated. And it all does seem to be having an effect. Today’s NYT’s reports that after a deep lull, there’s a spike not just in COVID, but in people getting vaccinated.
Why have so many Americans resisted the vaccine? For some, it’s probably false bravado. Maybe they are young and believe themselves immortal. Many of us went through that phase. I liked the idea for an ad that showed a 20 year old saying, “I didn’t get vaccinated and I killed my grandmother.” That might break through to some.
For many, however, the issue is the one that is systemic and corrosive: distrust. While there are always reasons for a healthy skepticism, when distrust is the automatic go-to, it too can become lethal, not only to oneself but to others. Pervasive distrust is also in fact lethal to a society, really any human group.
Jeremy Johnson and his fellow pastors are right, getting the vaccination is about loving your neighbor.
They are also right that you don’t have to choose between faith and science, although many on both sides of that false dichotomy have long told us that we do.